Christchurch to West Coast Weekend Trip

For our Canterbury Anniversary long weekend, we decided to travel from Christchurch to the West Coast. It’s a classic South Island long weekend trip, and we’d rented a bach 30 km south of Fox Glacier.

If there’s one thing that can be expected before the start of any long weekend is the exodus of local leaving Christchurch at 4pm. It seems that almost everyone is doing a mad dash to beat the traffic and get away early, with bags packed and heading into the outdoors! With Canterbury being so diverse, most of us carry a wide range of gear. We are no different, with surfcasting rods, flyfishing rods, hunting gear, and all sorts of clothing combinations on board!

Castle Hill Rocks, near Christchurch on the way to the West Coast
Castle Hill Rocks – The blue sky combined with the green grass produced a pretty good result from the iPhone camera!

Castle Hill Rocks

It was going to be a late arrival regardless but we decided to pull into Castle Hill near Arthurs Pass.

Castle Hill is a collection of distinctive limestone boulders. They’re not only amazing to look at, as there are also some rock climbing/bouldering possibilities here.

I’d recently got a new iPhone, and wanted to explore the slow-motion filming, and to also check the quality of the photos it took.

After checking out the rocks, we were back on track to continue our journey over to the West Coast. One thing I love about this drive from Christchurch to the West Coast is that moment you can see the sea.

I can see the West Coast sea… sometimes

If you’re on the way via Christchurch and Arthurs Pass, watch out as you reach the coast just north of Hokitika. If it’s a clear enough day, you’ll see what I mean.

The swell rolling into the coast gets pretty big, thanks to the nature of the Tasman Ocean. As a result, the waves seem to smash onto the land with incredible force. It’s certainly a wild part of New Zealand.

Franz Josef Glacier, as seen on our Christchurch to West Coast trip.
Franz Josef Glacier

We made good time along the West Coast road, so we could reach the next big landmark with lots of daylight to spare.

The Franz Josef Glacier is a 10 km body of frozen water and rock that comes from the Southern Alps.

It is one of the must-see things over this way, and gets around 250,000 visitors per year. Sadly, due to the planet warming up, it’s retreating pretty fast.

We continued the drive south toward our destination, a remote place just south of Bruce Bay. It was getting quite dark by this time, so there were plenty of possums and even a deer on the road. Surely a good sign of things to come!

Fishing and hunting on the West Coast

The next morning we got up at 5.30 am and made our way into the bush for a look around. Within 30 minutes we saw a deer 10 metres away! It’s great to see these massive animals up so close and in the wild. You don’t even mind when you miss out!

Brown Trout caught on the way from Christchurch to West Coast
Check out this brown trout which was caught near a river mouth south of Bruce Bay!

We tried a spot of fishing, first surf-casting in the sea without success, so we turned to flyfishing for trout, which was far more productive.

We spent the rest of the day fishing or hunting and just looking around. As you can see from the background in the photos, there’s a lot to explore and dense bush to get into.

That’s what I love about the West Coast. I,t’s so remote and there’s plenty of opportunities to explore. It’s also close enough to Christchurch to make a trip like this doable!

If you are interested in fishing in the rivers over here, make sure you get the right fishing licence. They are easily available from the Fish and Game website, or from a local fishing shop.

We chilled out and lit a fire on the beach using the abundance of driftwood around.¬†We were careful to make a good gap between our little fire and the other driftwood. You don’t want to have a fire get out of control over here, so make sure there’s nothing else that can catch and cause an emergency!

A West Coast driftwood fire
West Coast Driftwood Fire

Lake Paringa to Haast

We continued onto Lake Paringa, about 25 minutes drive south, then onto Haast. The weather was a bit patchy and stayed like that for the rest of the day.

The West Coast is an exposed coastline, and the weather can change very quickly. One minute it can be sunny, the next you’re in a torrential downpour. The next day, it was stunning without a breath of wind. So, you will need to pack accordingly!

There’s an awesome DOC campsite at Paringa that’s worth staying at if you’re on the Christchurch to West Coast trip. Of course, it also fits in well with the reverse route. It’s only $6 per night per person and you’re right on the lake edge.

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After a few days of hunting, fishing and exploring around Haast it was time to head back to Christchurch and back into the grind of it all. If you’re planning a trip in the South Island, make sure you add a drive along the West Coast and explore this awesome area. You might also like to check out these other posts on previous West Coast trips: A quick trip down the West CoastAmethyst Hot SpringsFishing in Haast [mc4wp_form] Blog post by Adam Hutchinson